Whether Microsoft likes it or not, there are still lots of people out there using Windows XP. And why not? Computers are much more reliable than they were 10-15 years ago, and are often seeing many years of service before failing or being replaced. Unfortunately, the world must move on, and this includes getting away from older things such as XP.
Microsoft will officially be ending support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014 (which will be here sooner than you realize). So what does this mean for you if you are someone still using a laptop or desktop with Windows XP?
For one, you should of course seriously consider upgrading to a new computer. If you are running XP, you do have the option of purchasing a new version of Windows and upgrading, however that is money that would be better spent on a replacement computer.
However, if you are indeed perfectly happy with your computer and have no desire to replace it, here are some things you can do to remain safe.
- Make sure you are patched up to the latest version of Windows XP. Currently on Service Pack 3, but there have been many updates since then. Run Windows Update and install any available updates for your computer.
- Antivirus. For a long time I have recommended the free Microsoft Security Essentials -- but XP users please be aware- Microsoft intents to discontinue support for this as well (security update releases). As such, I would recommend you switch to another free (or paid) product. My next free choice would be AVG Antivirus Free 2014. If you are looking for a paid product, I would suggest Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2014 (be sure to check out NewEgg.com they sometimes sell this as a digital download at a discounted rate).
- Web Browser. The latest version of Internet Explorer available for Windows XP is version 8, which was released back in 2009. Using an old version of a web browser is never recommended as many, many pieces of malware take advantage of security holes in them. If you are running Windows XP you absolutely should run Google Chrome -- they have pledged to support their browser on Windows XP until at least April of 2015 -- which will give you some breathing room until you decide to upgrade later on.
Finally, be sure you are prepared for any unforseen issues by properly backing up your computer. I've written a guide on how to do this HERE.
In conclusion- you can indeed continue to use Windows XP in 2014 (and beyond) and still enjoy a modicum of security, but you absolutely must take the proper steps to secure your computer.